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FRENCH di­rec­tor Laurent Can­tet de­serves credit for show­ing an­other side of sex tourism — mid­dle- aged white West­ern women procur­ing plea­sure from young black men in 1970s Haiti — but it’s a pity the re­sult is not a bet­ter film. There is a glimpse of what might have been in the open­ing scene, when a poor wo­man ap­proaches an older man at the air­port and begs him to take her 15- year- old daugh­ter be­cause ‘‘ be­ing beau­ti­ful and poor in this coun­try, she doesn’t stand a chance; they won’t think twice of killing me to grab her’’. The older man turns out to be Al­bert, head waiter at our sybarites’ pre­ferred ho­tel. He’s wait­ing to pick up Ellen ( Char­lotte Ram­pling) to take her to her room and her 18- year- old gigolo Legba ( Menothy Ce­sar). Ellen’s cool world is ruf­fled by the ar­rival of Brenda ( Karen Young), who has re­turned to look for Legba, with whom, three years ear­lier, she had her first or­gasm. The women’s ri­valry plays out in the shadow of Jean- Claude Du­va­lier’s regime, of which they are only dimly aware. This film has im­por­tant things to say about the lives of women of a cer­tain age, but I ended up not lik­ing any of them. Their clunky, plot­in­ter­rupt­ing mono­logues did not help. It takes courtly Al­bert ( Lys Am­broise) to re­turn the film to where it should have been. Speak­ing of his grand­fa­ther, who fought the 1915 US oc­cu­pa­tion of Haiti, he says: ‘‘ If he knew I was a waiter for Amer­i­cans, he would die of shame. Ev­ery­thing they touch turns to garbage.’’

Stephen Romei EX­TRAS: In­ter­view with the di­rec­tor; trailer Head­ing South ( M) Mad­man ( fea­ture runs 108 min­utes) Rental AS an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ital­ian di­rec­tor Pier Paolo Pa­solini’s 1975 mur­der con­tin­ues in Rome, it is timely to look at this neo- re­al­ist drama, made in 1962 at the be­gin­ning of his film­mak­ing ca­reer. Pa­solini was a poet, left- wing in­tel­lec­tual and provo­ca­teur: he re­ally up­set peo­ple with his later works such as the grue­somely erotic Salo. But in the 1960s he was mak­ing films about so­cial in­jus­tice, re­li­gion and life on the wrong side of tracks. He had a unique way of ex­press­ing his so­cial­ist opin­ions. In Mamma Roma, for ex­am­ple, he is never ex­plicit, sim­plis­tic or di­dac­tic. Set in Rome, this story of a beau­ti­ful, vul­gar street­walker known as Mamma Roma ( Anna Mag­nani), who tries valiantly to lift her­self out of poverty to give her son ( Et­tore Garo­folo) a chance of a bet­ter life, does have some melo­dra­matic mo­ments but also great beauty and sub­tlety. Few scenes in cin­ema are as telling as those in which Roma walks to­wards the cam­era on a dark city street, talk­ing, as men drift out of the dark­ness and walk along with her for a time, then drift away again. The lo­ca­tions are sen­sa­tional, around high- rise build­ings built as slum clear­ance ad­ja­cent to crum­bling Ro­man viaducts that cre­ate strange sil­hou­ettes on the hori­zon and hid­ing places for il­licit games. Mamma Roma was heav­ily cen­sored on its re­lease in Italy. It must have touched a nerve with that coun­try’s con­ser­va­tive gate­keep­ers: a bit too hon­est, per­haps. This DVD has the orig­i­nal un­cut ver­sion and in­cludes a doc­u­men­tary on Pa­solini’s life and work that is an ex­cel­lent com­pan­ion piece.

Ros­alie Hig­son EX­TRAS: Doc­u­men­tary; com­men­tary Mamma Roma ( M) Um­brella ( fea­ture runs 95 min­utes) $ 29.95 The Marine ( M) Fox ( fea­ture runs 118 min­utes) Rental ON its cin­e­matic re­lease in 2006, hordes of no- neck re­view­ers, who have prob­a­bly never lifted any­thing heav­ier than dough­nuts in their lives, lined up to lam­baste The Marine . Sure, the film de­but of for­mer wrestler and would- be ac­tion star John Cena is not the great­est ac­tion movie ever made, but I’m not sure the prob­lem lies with Cena. Hol­ly­wood’s tra­di­tional ac­tion stal­warts are all pen­sion­ers th­ese days, run­ning Amer­i­can states, open­ing restau­rant fran­chises and tak­ing up res­i­dency as guests on The Late Show with David Let­ter­man . Har­ri­son Ford, Sean Con­nery, Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, Steven Sea­gal, Jean- Claude Van Damme and Bruce Wil­lis are all ready for the knack­ery. And in their place? Well, prac­ti­cally no one. Pre­sum­ably the diminu­tive but tightly built Daniel Craig will be tied up for the fore­see­able fu­ture with Bond movies. So that leaves Marine star John Cena with a ver­i­ta­ble sword of Damo­cles hov­er­ing above his stu­pen­dous shoul­ders. Cena plays John Tri­ton, bumped out of Iraq and the Marines for dis­obey­ing a di­rect or­der. Even­tu­ally he gets to tick all the ac­tion­movie cliche boxes when his wife ( Kelly Carl­son) is ab­ducted by jewel thieves. It’s silly, to be sure, and not re­deemed by the pres­ence of Robert Pa­trick ( Ter­mi­na­tor 2 ’ s melt­ing vil­lain). But Cena does pretty well with the lame script. With more of his stun­ning physique on dis­play, and given some de­cent lines, Cena has the quiet charisma, the bi­ceps and the un­bri­dled mas­culin­ity to leave at least Van Damme and Sea­gal cow­er­ing in his dust.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

EX­TRAS: Mak­ing of; trail­ers

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